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  Seven Deadly Design Sins

Seven deadly design sins (Make sure YOUR site isn't committing any of them!)
By Andrew Mallory

Whenever I go surfing on the Web, I'm always afraid of what I'll find...

... Because I come across so many sites suffering from DEADLY design sins, I want to stab out my eyes with a pen!

Think I'm being dramatic? Maybe just a bit... but these fatal errors are guaranteed to be killing the sites' conversion rates -- and I just want to grab the site owners by the shoulder and tell them, "It doesn't have to BE this way!!!"

So today, I'd like to tell YOU about the top "seven deadly design sins" -- so you can make sure you're not committing any of them on your website. (Because any one of them could be pulling your potential sales right into the gutter!)

Here they are...

Deadly design sin #1: No eye-catching headline to grab your visitors' attention

It takes average web surfer 10 seconds MAXIMUM to decide whether to stick around on a site or move on to another one. You have to make those 10 seconds count!

You have to capture your visitors' attention RIGHT AWAY and convince them your site has exactly what they're looking for. And the best way to do that is with a well-formatted, attention-grabbing headline that's packed with intriguing benefits and compels them to read further.

Here's an example of a well-formatted, benefit-laden headline...

Discover the secret to eating as much as you want, whenever you want
-- And still lose all the weight you need --
While buzzing with the non-stop energy of a 9-year-old kid!

(Please note the benefits of "eating as much as you want," "losing all the weight you need," and "non-stop energy" are either bolded or underlined so they pop out at the reader.)

... and here's an example of something that's NOT:

Welcome to my diet site! I sell over 50 different weight loss products, from pills, to nutritional supplements, to popular weight loss books. Feel free to browse through my selection and find the product that's right for you.

... See the difference?

Above and beyond the lack of formatting, there are no benefits listed in the second example at all. It talks about what the site sells, but not about what these products will DO for the people who buy them.

Plus, by telling visitors they have to browse the site to find what they're looking for, you're putting all the hard work on THEM. Your copy should lead visitors straight to the solution they're looking for -- not make them have to hunt for it.

Deadly design sin #2: Distracting banners and links!

On your site, don't put up banners or links that send people to someone else's site! (And that includes Google Adwords ads.)

You want to keep people on your site -- not drive them somewhere else!

Everything on your site should directly relate to its ultimate PURPOSE -- whether it's to get more opt-ins for your email list or to sell your product! Anything on your site that doesn't serve this main purpose should be immediately deleted.

Of course, if the purpose of your site is purely to promote affiliate products or sell advertising space, then obviously you'll want to include banners or links... but otherwise, you shouldn't have them on your homepage at all.

If you try to promote affiliate products on a page that's also meant to sell a specific product, you'll end up doing a lousy job of both.

Deadly design sin #3: Too many dizzying colors or fonts

Nothing screams "amateur!" louder than a dizzying mishmash of different fonts and colors.

To make your site look professional, use a basic color scheme with just 2-3 colors maximum and a couple of fonts only. Look at any well-designed site and you'll see that they're pretty conservative about the colors and fonts they use.

(Remember, you want to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to read the words on your page!)

Deadly design sin #4: Patterned backgrounds

Make sure your background stays in the background!

If you add textures or use dark backgrounds on your site, people won't easily be able to read your copy. And if you aren't making it easy for them to read your copy, you aren't making it easy for them to buy your product!

Tests have shown over and over and over again that the highest conversion rates are seen on sites that have BLACK text on a plain white background, with colors limited to the margins.

It might seem "boring" from a design perspective... but better sales are pretty darned exciting from an income perspective!

Deadly design sin #5: Too many distracting graphics, animations, or video clips

Many website owners make the mistake of thinking that having LOTS of images, fancy graphics, animated gifs, or video clips will make their site more interesting.

Ehhh... wrong.

Unless those visual elements help persuade people to buy your product -- by showing visitors what your product looks like, or demonstrating how it works, for example -- then they're useless decorations that will distract your visitors and prevent them from following through on the action you want them to take.

Deadly design sin #6: Slow-loading pages and graphics

How long does it take for your homepage to load? If your answer is longer than, say, 3 seconds, you've got trouble on your hands!

Remember the 10-second rule... if your homepage doesn't load quickly, your visitors will lose patience and click away. Web surfers are extremely impatient people. If they can't begin reading or viewing your page right away, they're going to leave and go to another, more user-friendly site.

If you absolutely MUST use large graphics on your homepage, provide a small icon that links to the larger graphic and warn people they may have to wait as it loads.

Here are a few things you can do to speed up your loading time:
  • Reduce the file size of the graphics on your page. A great tool to use for this is WebGraphics Optimizer (www.WebOpt.com)

  • Specify the dimensions of your graphics files in your HTML code, with a tag that looks like this:

    <IMG SRC="graphic1.jpg"height-"240"Width="65">

  • Substitute colored text for a graphics file whenever possible
And last but not least...

Deadly design sin #7: Huge blocks of text that are nearly impossible to read

Here's a question for you... Which of the following text samples do you find easier to read?

Sample #1:

Are you sick of trying diet after diet and painfully denying yourself all your favorite foods but never seeing any lasting results? Or joining the latest supposedly "healthy" eating craze, only to discover a few months down the road that most health experts say that following that eating plan is actually BAD for you? I know exactly how you feel. For decades I was a "yo-yo" dieter. I would try out the latest celebrity diet trend and lose maybe 5 - 15 pounds, but then gain it all back as soon as I started eating "normally" again. In fact, usually I'd end up gaining even more weight, which is why I got on the scales one day and discovered to my horror that I now weighed over 200 pounds, not exactly a healthy weight for someone who's only 5' 2"! In my desperation to get back to a "normal" weight, I tried every single diet plan I could. I ate nothing but pre-packaged calorie-reduced diet meals. I took pills. I drank diet shakes for breakfast and lunch, and forced myself to ignore my growling stomach all day long. And yet time and time again, I broke under the strain of self-denial and ended up "cheating." I can't tell you how many nights I'd cave to my cravings and end up gorging on bags of chips, tubs of ice cream, and entire pans of brownies. And then I'd wake up the next day, absolutely sick with self-hatred. Well, I'm happy to tell you that those days are now over for good! Because FINALLY I discovered a healthy approach to food that allows me to eat my fill and walk away from the table feeling satisfied, and stay at my "ideal" weight of 125 lbs, which I've been able to maintain for over two years and counting!

Sample #2:

Are you sick of trying diet after diet -- and painfully denying yourself all your favorite foods -- but never seeing any lasting results?

Or joining the latest supposedly "healthy" eating craze, only to discover a few months down the road that most health experts say that following that eating plan is actually BAD for you?

I know exactly how you feel...

... For decades I was a "yo-yo" dieter. I would try out the latest celebrity diet trend and lose maybe 5 - 15 pounds, but then gain it all back as soon as I started eating "normally" again.

In fact, usually I'd end up gaining even more weigh -- which is why I got on the scales one day and discovered to my horror that I now weighed over 200 pounds.

Not exactly a healthy weight for someone who's only 5' 2"!

In my desperation to get back to a "normal" weight, I tried every single diet plan I could. I ate nothing but pre-packaged calorie-reduced diet meals... I took pills... I drank diet shakes for breakfast and lunch, and forced myself to ignore my growling stomach all day long.

And yet time and time again, I broke under the strain of self-denial and ended up "cheating." I can't tell you how many nights I'd cave to my cravings and end up gorging on bags of chips, tubs of ice cream, and entire pans of brownies.

And then I'd wake up the next day, absolutely sick with self-hatred.

Well, I'm happy to tell you that those days are now over for good! Because FINALLY I discovered a healthy approach to food that allows me to eat my fill and walk away from the table feeling satisfied, and stay at my "ideal" weight of 125 lbs -- which I've been able to maintain for over two years and counting!

... As you can see, Sample #2 is MUCH easier to read. Its "choppy" paragraph allows visitors to skim read the text and immediately grasp its meaning. In contrast, Sample #1 forces you to read every single word -- and even then, it's hard to keep your place in the text!

When writing for the Web, you should limit your paragraphs to six lines maximum. And make sure you vary your paragraph lengths so they don't all look the same! A "choppy" paragraph structure makes online text MUCH easier to read.

And if you want your visitors to read all the way to your "order" button, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to do so!

... So there's my list of the "seven deadly design sins" that all serious website owners absolutely MUST avoid if they want their sites to do a good job of converting casual visitors into eager customers. If you're committing one of these fatal errors, make sure you start working on getting it changed today!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Derek Gehl specializes in teaching real people how to start profitable Internet businesses that make $100,000 to $2.5 Million (or more) per year. To get instant access to all his most profitable marketing campaigns, strategies, tools, and resources that he's used to grow $25 into over $60 Million in online sales, visit: http://www.marketingtips.com/tipsltr.html

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